Back I the 1980s there really were only two kinds of pedestrian crossings; zebra and pelican, but with the ever increasing use of our roads we now have many more kinds. How are we to recognise these crossing and how are we supposed to deal with them?
For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on traffic light controlled crossings. As a driver how are we to distinguish between a pedestrian crossing and a normal set of traffic lights? After all the lights themselves will look the same in both instances and apart from 1 exception the sequence of the lights is the same (red, red and amber, green… amber, red). So firstly on the approach to a crossing we need to scan the crossing itself looking out for the white zigzag lines which surround the crossing on the left right and in the middle of the road.
If you see these lines then the lights ahead are a dedicated pedestrian crossing. So what are we not allowed to do on these lines? Firstly we are not allowed to stop on them to drop off or pick up anybody. Secondly we are not allowed to park on them and thirdly we are not allowed to overtake the lead vehicle if it’s at the stop line. These three things are against the highway code and have been put in place to safeguard the most vulnerable road users…the pedestrian himself.
Types of Pedestrian Crossing in the Highway Code
There is one kind of pedestrian crossing however which does not have these white zigzag lines. This is a combined set of lights and is found at busier junctions.
Even though the zigzag lines are a giveaway we therefore need to look out for a second sign that the lights are pedestrian or now. So what are we looking for….the yellow box! This is the box where we push the button as a pedestrian in order to cross. What most motorists do not realise is that this box is often facing the traffic and not the pedestrian. This is to give the driver a heads up is the button has been pressed. How? When we press the button it illuminates (or on older boxes the wait light lights up)
So now we have spotted that a pedestrian crossing is ahead what kind of crossing is it and how do we spot it and why do we need to know what kind it is?
These are the oldest of all crossings. The yellow box has the wait light on it. As a child we all used to love pressing the button as we walked passed it. This then puts a timer on the the lights will change after a short wait. Great fun as a child but as a driver we end up stopping at a crossing where nobody wants to cross. Very frustrating.
These lights also have a different light phase where the red and amber phases are replaced by a flashing amber. If nobody is crossing the driver should proceed here with caution but if a pedestrian is crossing the driver will need to wait until he is fully across the road before proceeding. When driver get the flashing amber the pedestrian will see a flashing green man. Same rules apply. If you have already started to cross when the man flashes then continue normally buttons you haven’t started to cross you should wait.
To keep traffic flowing better and to help pedestrians cross more efficiently we now have Puffin crossings. These in essence are the same as Pelican crossings except they are ‘clever’ crossings. On top the the lights there is a sensor (a small camera). This is how we can spot them as drivers. Once the pedestrian has pressed the button the camera will pick up if they are waiting to cross and the lights will quickly changed. Once across the camera will pick this up to and quickly change back.
If the pedestrian pressed the button then walks off the lights wont change at all. This keeps the traffic and pedestrian flow better as the lights only change when they need to.
Toucan crossings will be placed near cycle lanes or cycle routes as they are the only crossing which is for pedestrians and cyclists (the only one where a cyclist may cycle across). You can also spot them as there is a bike alongside the man on the yellow box. Knowing it is for cyclists helps our awareness as drivers that bikes may be around!
Pegasus or Equestrian crossings
These crossings are for both pedestrians and horses and can be spotted near bridleways. They are easily visible from a distance due to the wooden fencing surrounding it where the horse would cross and the fact that the lights are a lot taller. On these extended lights there will also be 2 yellow boxes; one at a height for pedestrians and one at a height for mounted riders to press. Extra caution of course should be made around these crossings as horses are easily spooked and the safety of horses and riders must be paramount.
Whatever kind of crossing you are using please respect the most vulnerable users of our busy roads and dont rev your engine or rush them when crossing the road. How would you feel is.someone did that to you…